Measuring Implicit Consumer Attitudes and Predicting Brand Choice


Michaela Wanke, Henning Plessner, Tatjana Gartner, and Wade Malte Friese (2002) ,"Measuring Implicit Consumer Attitudes and Predicting Brand Choice", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 29, eds. Susan M. Broniarczyk and Kent Nakamoto, Valdosta, GA : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 222.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 29, 2002     Page 222


Michaela Wanke, UniversitSt Erfurt

Henning Plessner, UniversitSt Heidelberg

Tatjana Gartner, UniversitSt Mannheim

Wade Malte Friese, UniversitSt Heidelberg

Recent theories in social psychology assume that people may have two different attitudes toward an object at the same time, one that is explicit and one that is implicit (Greenwald & Banaji, 1995; Wilson, Lindsey & Schooler, 2000). Although different definitions of implicit attitudes have been proposed, for the present purpose implicit attitudes may be described as evaluative responses towards an attitude object, which, in contrast to explicit attitudes, are not necessarily subject to introspection. In other words, individuals may not be aware of their implicit attitudes. Nevertheless, implicit attitudes may influence information processing and behavior. In general, it has been suggested that implicit attitudes guide spontaneous behavior whereas more deliberative behavior is influenced more strongly by explicit attitudes (Fazio & Towles-Schwen, 1999; Wilson, et al. ,2000). The assessment of both attitudes, therefore, would overall improve the prediction of behavior. At present, there is relatively little research on the prediction of consumer behavior by implicit attitudes.

A measure of implicit attitudes that is easily adaptable to different contexts has been presented by Greenwald, McGhee & Schwartz (1998): The Implicit Association Test (IAT). In the present study, the IAT was adapted to measure implicit attitudes towards two brands of coffee. In a first task, participants were presented with photos of the two brands and were instructed to categorize each photo as quickly as possible according to the brand by pressing one of two keys on a keyboard. In a second task, words of unambigous valence were presented and participants¦ task was to categorize them as quickly as possible according to positive or negative valence. Two further sequences combined both tasks. In one double discrimination task participants were presented with the brands and words in mixed order and had to press one specified key for brand A or a positive word and another key for brand B or a negative word. In the second double discrimination task the key assignment was switched and participants pressed one specified key for brand A or a negative word and the other for brand B or a positive word. The difference in response latencies in these two tasks is taken as an indicator for the difference in the strength of associating brand A versus brand B with positive valence. Thus, the IAT in its usual version measures relative attitudinal preferences between two categories.

In order to control for order effects, we varied the order of the initial and the reversed discrimination task. Order of sequence however did not how any effects. As additional measures, explicit attitudes toward the brands and brand choices were assessed. While in previous studies on implicit attitudes implicit and explicit measures were often unrelated, we found a considerable correlation (r=.44, p<.01) between both measures. Nevertheless both measures contributed independently to the prediction of brand choices as reflected by the standardized beta coefficients: .23, t(59)=2.08, p<.05 for the IAT, and .56 t(59)=5.60, p<.01, for the explicit attitude.

Although in our study explicit attitudes had a higher predictive value than implicit ones this is not necessarily so. As mentioned above, the influence of implicit attitudes on behavior should be higher for spontaneous behavior. In our study, we had not manipulated the conditions under which participants made their choices. As in real life some participants may have involved some thought, others may have chosen spontaneously. While we would expect that the IAT would predict spontaneous behavior better than explicit measures and explicit measures would better predict controlled behavior. Our results suggest that in general assessing implicit attitudes in addition to explicit ones may improve the prediction of behavior. The IAT may serve as a valid instrument in assessing such attitudinal predictors.

As a second aspect, we investigated to what extent explicit and implicit attitude measures reflected the influence of a persuasive message regarding the brand. Prior to the assessment of attitudes we presented a persuasive message and varied its favorability. Some participants read a journal article favoring the target brand whereas others read an article presenting unfavorable information about that brand. A control group did not receive any persuasive information. Originally it had been argued that implicit attitudes are relatively immune against situational influences (Greenwald et al., 1998) but recent research casts doubt on the assumption that implicit measures of attitudes are context independent (Greenwald & Nosek, 2001).

We too found that IAT scores were sensitive to persuasive appeals prior to the attitude measurement. Participants who were presented with a message arguing in favor of the target brand showed significantly more favorable responses on explicit measures, choice behavior (both p<.01) and implicit measures (p<.05) compared to participants who were given an unfavorable message, while differences to the control group were not always significant. While this may spoil market researchers¦ hopes for getting rid of external influences in their measures, it suggests that implicit measures may also be used to evaluate the success of communicative appeals. While the fact that even implicit measures reflect communicative influences suggests that implicit attitudes are not as fixed and context independent as has originally been claimed, the IAT may be useful in order to evaluate the effect of persuasive communications or other marketing strategies.


Fazio, R. H., & Towles-Schwen, T. (1999). The MODE model of attitude-behavior processes. In S. Chaiken & Y. Troope (Eds.), Dual-process theories in social psychology (pp. 97-116). New York: Guilford.

Greenwald, A. G., & Banaji, M. R. (1995). Implicit social cognition: Attitudes, self-esteem, and stereotypes. Psychological Review, 102, 4-27.

Greenwald, A. G. & Nosek, B. A. (2001). Health of the implicit association test at age 3. Zeitschrift fnr Experimentelle Psychologie, 48, 85-93.

Greenwald, A. G., McGhee, D. E., & Schwartz, J. L. K. (1998). Measuring individual differences in implicit cognition: The implicit association test. Journal of Personality and Social Psyhology, 74, 1464-1480.

Wilson, T., Lindsey, S. & Schooler, T.Y. (2000). A model of dual attitudes. Psychological Review, 107, 101-126.



Michaela Wanke, UniversitSt Erfurt
Henning Plessner, UniversitSt Heidelberg
Tatjana Gartner, UniversitSt Mannheim
Wade Malte Friese, UniversitSt Heidelberg


NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 29 | 2002

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